Tell us about yourself.
I immigrated to Canada in 2002. After the usual ‘rites-of-passage’ struggles as an immigrant, I got a decent job as an underwriter in a Canadian insurance company. I had always harboured a desire to write, and the varied experiences a newcomer goes through in this country became a convenient starting point for me. While still working at my day job (writing is not a paying profession, at least not for upcoming authors), I continue to write. My stories are being published in anthologies and periodicals, even if they are not topnotch ones. I won the Mississauga Arts Council grant for the ‘Best Emerging Literary Artist.’ I found this really reassuring since I had the audacity to dream of becoming a writer—a bit late in life. Besides this honour, I received a grant from Ontario Arts Council, and was selected by Diaspora Dialogues for their short fiction and later for the longform mentorship programs.
Tell us about the piece you’ve decided to share.
This excerpt is from an unpublished short story—it chronicles the first few days in an immigrant’s life, just after landing in Canada. The culture shock, the ground realities of employment opportunities, and the adjustment one has to make to one’s outlook of life. Though written in a lighter vein, the fictional piece touches on some of the problems new immigrants face.
When and why did you realize you had a passion for writing?
For me, wanting to write was the natural outcome of my love of reading, being forever under the enchantment of books. Back home in India there was a strong colonial influence of Britain in the books which were available, and no literature abounds in escapist fiction more than the English language. Abetted by my parents who put a premium on reading, I lost myself in the magical world of literature. There seemed no profession more wondrous than that of a writer’s, and is it a surprise that I longed to be one?
What pieces of writing/authors have had the greatest impact on you?
I devoured British detective fiction, and in my teens I loved the works of Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, and Josephine Tey almost to distraction. Among the mainstream writers, I enjoyed reading Somerset Maugham, and Muriel Spark. I also read books of Indians writing in English, the two I admired most were Raja Rao and Kamala Markandaya, especially the latter who wrote—half a century ago—a remarkable novel about the predicament of Indian diaspora called The Nowhere Man (such an appropriate title, I think).
What kind of writer do you aspire to be?
I want to be a writer who writes about the milieu he knows best, to write about the subject in a way that’s both incisive and entertaining. While presently I write about the immigrant experience (even the novel I’m working on has echoes of it), in future I would also like to write about India, my home country, on the effect of modernization and the growing, but skewed, prosperity.
How and when do you find time to write?
It must be a little shopworn, my joke about being an underwriter by day and a writer by night. Even with a full time day job, and a family to support, you will somehow find time (late in the night or early in the morning)—if you love to write.